I’ve just read a blog post on an American police related website. The story, as the site tells us all of the articles on it are, is satire. No more, no less. Sounds a bit like my site actually.
the problem with this particular blog post is that the more you read it, the more it actually begins to sound like the sort of policing scenario we are allowing ourselves to fall into this side of the pond.
It sort of goes along this theme …
Police departments across the country are pulling patrol officers off the road. Police will still be on duty but will only respond to 911 calls. No pro-active policing will take place.
It quotes the now famous (or infamous if you prefer) Kansas Patrol Experiment as a basis for this change in policing policy and reason for hiding all the cops away until they are called for.
If you want to read the whole thing, it’s here > http://www.callthecops.net/police-ending-patrol-operations-response-public-fear-cops/
The Kansas City Experiment, for those who don’t know, was carried out, oddly enough in Kansas City in 1972 and 1973. Yes, even that long ago police were actually carrying out research on how to do the job better !
It was designed to test the assumption that the presence (or potential presence) of police officers in marked police cars reduced the likelihood of a crime being committed as opposed to just making people ‘feel’ safer. It was the first study to demonstrate that research into the effectiveness of different policing styles could be carried out responsibly and safely.
It worked like this :
Officials took three different police beats in Kansas City, and varied the patrol routines in them. The first group received no routine patrols, instead the police responded only to calls for service from residents. The second group had the normal level of patrols, while the third had two to three times as many patrols.
The experiment ran for 12 months, from 1 October 1972 to 30 September 1973.
Victim surveys, reported crime rates, arrest data, a survey of local businesses, attitudinal surveys, and trained observers who monitored police-citizen interaction were used to gather data. These were taken before the start of the experiment (September 1972), and after (October 1973), giving ‘before’ and ‘after’ conditions for comparison.
What the review found at the end was absolutely startling :
- Citizens did not notice the difference when the frequency of patrols was changed.
- Increasing or decreasing the level of patrol had no significant effect on resident and commercial burglaries, auto thefts, larcenies (theft to you and I) involving auto accessories, robberies, or vandalism crimes.
- The rate at which crimes were reported did not differ significantly across the experimental beats.
- Citizen reported fear of crime was not affected by different levels of patrol.
- Citizen satisfaction with police did not vary.
The conclusion was that routine preventive patrols in marked police cars had little value in preventing crime or making citizens feel safer and that resources normally allocated to these activities could better be allocated elsewhere.
Moving back to this side of the water, this is exactly the style and process of policing we are fast plummeting towards, whether the great and the good on the top floor wish to admit and acknowledge it or not.
We are already seeing the decimation of Neighbourhood Policing Teams, both officers and PCSO’s up and down the country. Local knowledge is being lost hand over fist and in an increasing number of areas, cops are being withdrawn back into cars as a drastically reduced number of staff tries to cope with a vastly increasing demand for service.
We are running head over heels into a firefighting model of policing. Paraphrasing back to the American blog article;
The FD is not out patrolling looking for fire. EMS is not out patrolling looking for sick people. So why are we patrolling looking for crime?
All that I’m surprised about here is than one or more of our crazy think-tanks hasn’t already picked up the Kansas model, Anglicised the odd word or two, passed it off as their own and tried to get it introduced over here … or maybe they have and we are now seeing the beginning of the end … ?
The problem of course with this method is, we do things differently over here. We police by consent for a start. Going back to the original Peelian Principle that the police are the public and the public are the police.
In the UK the police are ‘of the people’ (although some would like to make you believe otherwise), we are citizens in uniform, not agents of the state.
Our communities like to see police officers out and about; they like to see bobbies on foot patrol; they like to say ‘Good Morning’ and tell us face to face about their issues and concerns.
Does having a police officer walk the beat around your estate prevent crime ? Who knows; it may do, it may not. It’s an immeasurable quantity … and by definition you can’t measure the success of that. What it does do of course, is make the local people feel better and safer, and as we all know whatever the crime level in a given area, the fear of crime locally is always many times higher.
There’s another Peelian Principle we perhaps forget too often as well – the test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, and not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it.
Either way, unless some drastic intervention and strong leadership is forthcoming to protect the system of policing that we now have, it’s going to take more than clicking a pair of red shoes to sort the mess out !